Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Plain Gentian - Gentiana alba   Muhlenberg ex Nuttall
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Section 6 » Order Gentianales » Family Gentianaceae
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AuthorMuhlenberg ex Nuttall
DistributionConfusing, but no matter what, it is long historical! RAB (1968) said "known from one collection; Ashe Co., N.C.". However, SERNEC shows no collection record for it, or for an alternative name of G. flavida. The NCNHP database shows just one record: "Gap next west of Deep Gap", from 1916; however, the database shows no other information about whether this is a specimen and, if so, where it is located, other than presumed in Watauga County. The BONAP atlas, never completely reliable, shows a record just from Watauga County; and Weakley (2018) also mentions western NC in the range, but of historical occurrence. It is certainly possible that only a single record or report exists, as opposed to two such records.

This is a Midwestern species, ranging east only to PA, WV, and KY, with a disjunct record (apparently) from northwestern NC. There do not seem to be any records for VA or even for TN.
AbundanceThis species is legally listed as Special Concern - Historical, with a State Rank of SH (historical). As there seems to be no record for the species in over 100 years, and it is or was quite disjunct to the east, the species really must be considered with a State Rank of SX (extirpated).
HabitatThis is a species of moist places but in high pH soil. It is mainly a wet prairie species, but can occur in damp but open woods and in glades. The NC record might have been from a wet meadow.
PhenologyBlooms from August to October, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a typical Gentiana in vegetative form, but it has white to pale greenish-white flowers. The only other whitish-flowered gentian is G. villosa. G. villosa has the lower stem leaves spatulate or obovate, wider above the middle; on the other hand, G. alba has leaves typical for most of the other gentians, being ovate to lanceolate, wider toward the base. Habitats are also very different, with G. alba favoring sunny and damp places, whereas G. villosa grows in full shade or mainly shady upland forests. In addition, G. alba is a robust species and often reaches 1.5-2' tall, whereas G. villosa is rather slender and usually only about 1' tall.
Taxonomic CommentsMany references consider or considered this species as G. flavida.

Other Common Name(s)Pale Gentian, Cream Gentian, White Gentian, Yellow Gentian. This species has no consistent common name.
State RankSH [SX]
Global RankG4
State StatusSC-V
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